Constitution Week ended on Friday with United States Senator Mike Lee, representative of Utah, visiting the Wildcat Theater to discuss freedom and civil society.
The Olene S. Walker Institute of Politics & Public Service at Weber State University hosts Constitution Week in conjunction with the WSU Student Association’s leadership program, the American Democracy Project. ADP is designed to help students get involved in leadership and become more active citizens in their community.
Lee began his speech by informing the audience how he has a close connection with WSU because his maternal grandfather was the student body president in the late 1920s.
“Weber State is an outstanding community. This is a great place and a wonderful town,” Lee said. “I have a love for this campus in part because of (my grandfather), but in part because of the other many great friends and connections I have had with this campus over the years.”
The audience was filled with members of the WSU community but also people from the Ogden area and beyond. However, Lee’s introduction made it seem as if everyone was closely connected.
“So many of you and in so many aspects of this community are examples of what really makes America great,” he said. “There are people in this community, and all communities around the United States, who are motivated by nothing other than a desire to make the world a better place in which to live. It’s that sense of community that makes this the greatest civilization the world has ever known.”
He said this sense of community is the first self-evident truth asserted in the Declaration of Independence and reinforced by the Constitution, that it impels Americans toward better behavior and to help take care of each other. In America the people rule, and the government is here to serve the people, not the other way around, Lee said.
“Here the sovereignty is vested in the individual and in the people as individuals and as a whole and not in government,” he said. “The government is here to serve us.”
He said that with these rights and freedoms comes responsibility, such as the responsibility to serve, whether that be in government, through employment or in the local community.
“As Americans, we are free to assert these rights, not because we are superior to other people, but because of our common and virtuous belief that all men are created equal,” Lee said. “That is what makes us great.”
Lee focused much of his speech on what he called the Twin Pillars of America, robust institutions of civil society and free markets, which makes America the land of opportunity. However, the land of opportunity is becoming something of the past, he said. He elaborated on this statement using the ladder of success all Americans want to climb and how many Americans are getting trapped in their current situations, unable to continue climbing the ladder, and how everyone needs to work together to change this current condition.
“It will be we, the people, and not the government that will form a more perfect union and ensure that the vision of George Washington will continue to become destiny of this great nation,” Lee said. “Remember, service is a choice. Freedom is a choice. America is a choice.”
India Nielson, WSU senator for the College of Arts and Humanities, said she was excited WSU had a U.S. senator come to campus.
“It is really cool,” she said. “Regardless of what your political stance is, he is one of the senators for Utah, and it is amazing he is taking time from his schedule to come and give a speech and a Q-and-A.”
ADP director Ashlee Cawley, a senior in political science and English at WSU, said she enjoys being part of a project that gives her the ability to bring Utah state and United States representatives to campus for students to see and interact with.
“I was really impressed that he gave thoughtful answers to all the questions and really expanded on them,” Cawley said. “As a student, I was really interested in the final question — about student loans — and his response. It was good to hear his opinion on it, and he gave a thorough answer.”
ADP marketing director Matthew Glover, a political science senior at WSU, asked what the government plans to do about the increasing suicide rate for veterans.
“Exactly 24 hours ago I was having this conversation with about 50 senators on that very subject,” Lee answered. “It has risen to somewhat epidemic proportions. Few things are more tragic than when one of our veterans chooses to take his or her life. We don’t know all the reasons it’s happening, but we are trying to get to the bottom of it.”
Glover said he was glad to hear that Lee and his colleagues are discussing the issue.
“It is an issue I don’t think is being brought up very much,” he said. “We have a large veteran population here on campus, and he had an interesting answer in that there is a lot of stuff we don’t know and hopefully we can get some more awareness.”
Nielson urges all WSU students to contact the student senate if they have issues or concerns on campus. Senate meetings are open to the public every Monday at 2 p.m. in Room 404 of the Shepherd Union Building.
“We are the voice for the students,” Nielson said. “That is what the senate is here for, just as the state and United States senators are there to be the voice and advocate for whoever they are representing.”